February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Actions; prescription/laches. Petitioners contend that it is error on the part of the CA to rule that their cause of action has been barred by prescription and laches. According to them, since the OCT from which ALI derived its title is void for want of a duly approved survey plan, their cause of action did not prescribe. However, as discussed above, the conclusion of the trial court that OCT No. 242 is void was not sufficiently borne out by the evidence on record. Verily, the premise upon which petitioners build their theory of imprescriptibility of their action did not exist.

In sum, we find no reason to disturb the CA’s finding that:  “As previously emphasized, OCT No. 242 of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest was issued on May 7, 1950, or forty-five (45) years before plaintiffs-appellees filed their complaint on March 10, 1995.  As such, it is the Court’s firmly held view that plaintiffs-appellees’ claim is barred not only by prescription, but also by laches.

Aside from the fact that OCT No. 242 had become incontrovertible after the lapse of one (1) year from the time a decree of registration was issued, any action for reconveyance that plaintiffs-appellees could have availed of is also barred.  Although plaintiffs-appellees’ complaint was for quieting of title, it is in essence an action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust, considering that plaintiffs-appellees were alleging in said complaint that there was a serious mistake, if not fraud, in the issuance of OCT No. 242 in favor of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest.  It is now well-settled that an action for reconveyance, which is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name, must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title, since such issuance operates as a constructive notice.  Since ALI’s title is traced to an OCT issued in 1950, the ten-year prescriptive period expired in 1960.

By laches is meant the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.  It does not involve mere lapse or passage of time, but is principally an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right, which has become under the circumstances inequitable or unfair to permit.  In the instant case, plaintiffs-appellees, as well as their predecessor-in-interest, have not shown that they have taken judicial steps to nullify OCT No. 242, from which ALI’s title was derived, for forty-five (45) years.  To allow them to do so now, and if successful, would be clearly unjust and inequitable to those who relied on the validity of said OCT, the innocent purchasers for value, who are protected by the precise provisions of P.D. 1529″. Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Equal protection;  requisites. The equal protection clause does not require the universal application of the laws to all persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires is equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. The test developed by jurisprudence here and yonder is that of reasonableness, which has four requisites:

(1) The classification rests on substantial distinctions;

(2) It is germane to the purposes of the law;

(3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and

(4) It applies equally to all members of the same class.

The assailed Decision readily acknowledged that these deemed-resigned provisions satisfy the first, third and fourth requisites of reasonableness. It, however, proffers the dubious conclusion that the differential treatment of appointive officials vis-à-vis elected officials is not germane to the purpose of the law.  Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Expropriation;  private use.  It is well settled that the taking of private property by the Government’s power of eminent domain is subject to two mandatory requirements: (1) that it is for a particular public purpose; and (2) that just compensation be paid to the property owner. These requirements partake of the nature of implied conditions that should be complied with to enable the condemnor to keep the property expropriated.

More particularly, with respect to the element of public use, the expropriator should commit to use the property pursuant to the purpose stated in the petition for expropriation filed, failing which, it should file another petition for the new purpose. If not, it is then incumbent upon the expropriator to return the said property to its private owner, if the latter desires to reacquire the same. Otherwise, the judgment of expropriation suffers an intrinsic flaw, as it would lack one indispensable element for the proper exercise of the power of eminent domain, namely, the particular public purpose for which the property will be devoted. Accordingly, the private property owner would be denied due process of law, and the judgment would violate the property owner’s right to justice, fairness, and equity.

In light of these premises, we now expressly hold that the taking of private property, consequent to the Government’s exercise of its power of eminent domain, is always subject to the condition that the property be devoted to the specific public purpose for which it was taken. Corollarily, if this particular purpose or intent is not initiated or not at all pursued, and is peremptorily abandoned, then the former owners, if they so desire, may seek the reversion of the property, subject to the return of the amount of just compensation received. In such a case, the exercise of the power of eminent domain has become improper for lack of the required factual justification.  Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) and Air Transportation Office (ATO) vs. Bernardo Lozada, et al., G.R. No. 176625, February 25, 2010.

Gerrymandering; meaning. “Gerrymandering” is a term employed to describe an apportionment of representative districts so contrived as to give an unfair advantage to the party in power. Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, defined “gerrymandering” as the formation of one legislative district out of separate territories for the purpose of favoring a candidate or a party. The Constitution proscribes gerrymandering, as it mandates each legislative district to comprise, as far as practicable, a contiguous, compact and adjacent territory.

As stated by the Office of the Solicitor General, the Province of Dinagat Islands consists of one island and about 47 islets closely situated together, without the inclusion of separate territories. It is an unsubstantiated allegation that the province was created to favor Congresswoman Glenda Ecleo-Villaroman.  Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050, February 10, 2010.

House of Representative Electoral Tribunal (HRET);  jurisdiction. The HRET has jurisdiction over the question of qualifications of petitioners Abayon and Palparan as nominees of Aangat Tayo and Bantay party-list organizations, respectively, who took the seats at the House of Representatives that such organizations won in the 2007 elections.

Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution provides that the HRET shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to, among other things, the qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives. Since party-list nominees are “elected members” of the House of Representatives no less than the district representatives are, the HRET has jurisdiction to hear and pass upon their qualifications. By analogy with the cases of district representatives, once the party or organization of the party-list nominee has been proclaimed and the nominee has taken his oath and assumed office as member of the House of Representatives, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his qualifications ends and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins.  Electoral Tribunal, et al. /Congressman Jovito S. Palparan, Jr. vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), et al., G.R. No. 189466/G.R. No. 189506,. February 11, 2010.

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August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law, Criminal Law and Legal/Judicial Ethics

Here are selected August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law, criminal law and legal/judicial ethics.

Remedial Law

Action;  accion publiciana.  Accion publiciana, also known as accion plenaria de posesion, is an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better right of possession of realty independently of title. It refers to an ejectment suit filed after the expiration of one year from the accrual of the cause of action or from the unlawful withholding of possession of the realty.

The objective of the plaintiffs in accion publiciana is to recover possession only, not ownership. However, where the parties raise the issue of ownership, the courts may pass upon the issue to determine who between or among the parties has the right to possess the property. This adjudication, however, is not a final and binding determination of the issue of ownership; it is only for the purpose of resolving the issue of possession, where the issue of ownership is inseparably linked to the issue of possession. The adjudication of the issue of ownership, being provisional, is not a bar to an action between the same parties involving title to the property. The adjudication, in short, is not conclusive on the issue of ownership. Francisco Madrid and Edgardo Bernardo vs. Spouses Bonifacio Mapoy and Felicidad Martinez, G.R. No. 150887, August 14, 2009.

Action;  filing fees. Upon deeper reflection, we find that the movants’ claim has merit. The 600,000 shares of stock were, indeed, properties in litigation. They were the subject matter of the complaint, and the relief prayed for entailed the nullification of the transfer thereof and their return to LLDC. David, et al., are minority shareholders of the corporation who claim to have been prejudiced by the sale of the shares of stock to the Lu Ym father and sons. Thus, to the extent of the damage or injury they allegedly have suffered from this sale of the shares of stock, the action they filed can be characterized as one capable of pecuniary estimation. The shares of stock have a definite value, which was declared by plaintiffs themselves in their complaint. Accordingly, the docket fees should have been computed based on this amount. This is clear from the version of Rule 141, Section 7 in effect at the time the complaint was filed. David Lu Vs. Paterno Lu Ym, Sr., et al./Paterno Lu Ym, Sr., et al. Vs. David Lu/ John Lu Ym and Ludo & Luym Development Corporation Vs. The Hon. Court of Appeals of Cebu City (former twentieth division), et al., G.R. No. 153690/G.R. No. 157381/G.R. No. 170889, August 4, 2009.

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August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on political law:

Constitutional law

Congress; legislative immunity.  The immunity Senator Santiago claims is rooted primarily on the provision of Article VI, Section 11 of the Constitution.

As American jurisprudence puts it, this legislative privilege is founded upon long experience and arises as a means of perpetuating inviolate the functioning process of the legislative department. Without parliamentary immunity, parliament, or its equivalent, would degenerate into a polite and ineffective debating forum. Legislators are immune from deterrents to the uninhibited discharge of their legislative duties, not for their private indulgence, but for the public good. The privilege would be of little value if they could be subjected to the cost and inconvenience and distractions of a trial upon a conclusion of the pleader, or to the hazard of a judgment against them based upon a judge’s speculation as to the motives.

This Court is aware of the need and has in fact been in the forefront in upholding the institution of parliamentary immunity and promotion of free speech. Neither has the Court lost sight of the importance of the legislative and oversight functions of the Congress that enable this representative body to look diligently into every affair of government, investigate and denounce anomalies, and talk about how the country and its citizens are being served. Courts do not interfere with the legislature or its members in the manner they perform their functions in the legislative floor or in committee rooms. Any claim of an unworthy purpose or of the falsity and mala fides of the statement uttered by the member of the Congress does not destroy the privilege. The disciplinary authority of the assembly and the voters, not the courts, can properly discourage or correct such abuses committed in the name of parliamentary immunity.

For the above reasons, the plea of Senator Santiago for the dismissal of the complaint for disbarment or disciplinary action is well taken. Indeed, her privilege speech is not actionable criminally or in a disciplinary proceeding under the Rules of Court. It is felt, however, that this could not be the last word on the matter. Antero J. Pobre vs. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, A.C. No. 7399. August 25, 2009.

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February 2009 Decisions on Constitutional Law and Administrative Law

Here are some of the decisions promulgated by the Supreme Court in February 2009 on constitutional law and administrative law.

Administrative Law

1.  Administrative liability.  It is a fundamental principle in the law on public officers that administrative liability is separate from and independent of criminal liability. A simple act or omission can give rise to criminal, civil or administrative liability, each independently of the others. This is known as the “threefold liability rule.” Thus, absolution from a criminal charge is not a bar to an administrative prosecution, and vice-versa. The dismissal of the administrative cases against the petitioners will not necessarily result in the dismissal of the criminal complaints filed against them.  Eleno T. Regidor, Jr. et al. Vs. People of the Philippines, et al. G.R. No. 166086-92, February 13, 2009.

2. Reorganization.  A reorganization “involves the reduction of personnel, consolidation of offices, or abolition thereof by reason of economy or redundancy of functions.” It alters the existing structure of government offices or units therein, including the lines of control, authority and responsibility between them to make the bureaucracy more responsive to the needs of the public clientele as authorized by law. It could result in the loss of one’s position through removal or abolition of an office. For a reorganization for the purpose of economy or to make the bureaucracy more efficient to be valid, however, it must pass the test of good faith, otherwise it is void ab initio. In the case at bar, petitioner claims that there has been a drastic reduction of plantilla positions in the new staffing pattern in order to address the local government unit’s gaping budgetary deficit. Thus, he states that in the municipal treasurer’s office and waterworks operations unit where respondents were previously assigned, only 11 new positions were created out of the previous 35 which had been abolished; and that the new staffing pattern had 98 positions only, as compared with the old which had 129. The CSC, however, highlighted the recreation of six (6) casual positions for clerk II and utility worker I, which positions were previously held by respondents Marivic, Cantor, Asor and Enciso.  Petitioner inexplicably never disputed this finding nor proferred any proof that the new positions do not perform the same or substantially the same functions as those of the abolished. Nowhere in the records does it appear that these recreated positions were first offered to respondents. The appointment of casuals to these recreated positions violates R.A. 6656.   Pan vs. Pena, G.R. No. 174244, February 13, 2009.

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